Diary of an Epic Comeback

I recently attended the National Speakers Association conference in Washington, DC. There were several “epic” keynotes including Immaculee Ilibagiza’s talk on forgiveness and Mark Scharenbroich’s masterful closing.

But there were some stumbles.

A lovely man named Robert Siciliano had attempted to memorize a 5 minute talk on Personal and Home Safety and the pressure of the NSA stage combined with a giant 5 minute timer in front of him took its toll. He had a couple of false starts and lost his place. He said “oh, I was afraid this was going to happen”. It was tough to watch as everyone in the audience was sympathizing with his plight.

And, it might have been a wake up call for those who thought performing on the NSA stage was a piece of cake.

But guess what?

He got a second chance.

Now, let me back up and bit and tell you that my first NSA was in Washington, DC 20 years earlier and I cried through the entire conference. I felt moved by all of the main stage performances and that was the year that Ken Medema was introduced to NSA. If a beautiful blind piano player doesn’t make you cry…  well what can I say.

So when Robert was given a second chance, the water works started. I went into the ugly cry I was so moved by the gesture to give him a second chance. We were all wishing and praying that he would do well this time.

And boy, did he!!!

Robert stepped onto the stage a totally different person. He was dressed more casually. He didn’t use slides. He was conversational not memorized. He looked relaxed and he just talked to us about what he knew about personal safety. He thanked Victoria Labalme at the end,  who I later discovered had coached him to this epic comeback (check out the LIVE teleclass with Victoria and I on Keys to Rocking Your Keynote!)

[Tweet “When you try to memorize your presentation, you’re in your head rather than present with the audience. #publicspeaking”]

For me the big lesson was that when you try to memorize your presentation, you’re in your head, rather than being present with the audience. Robert knew his material inside and out, but it wouldn’t come to him under that immense pressure and time constraint.

Congrats to Robert for an amazing and epic comeback.

If you’d like to comment on this or any of the presentations at NSA, please do so here on our blog.

See you soon Wealthy Speakers!

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PS: Need to brush up on your “epic” presentation skills? Check out my books,  The Wealthy Speaker 2.0 and The Epic Keynote!

  • Carol Ring

    With you on this one Jane. Robert’s comeback was epic! It was like watching a different person and I’m very impressed that he was given that second chance – good on whoever it was that made that decision.

    • Jane

      I believe that was the Program Chair Brian Walter – we should let him know!

  • Trying to recal content under pressure can be very difficult, even if you’re an experienced speaker. I salute Robert for having the courage to get right back in the saddle.

    • Jane

      So true, and I’m right there with the salute!

  • Maggie Chicoine

    We all learn from these second chances.

    Years ago, at the NSA Spring conference in Bermuda, I remember admiring Vanna Novak’s elegant pauses on the mainstage. After a particularly long silence, however, she broke down, admitting that she had over-rehearsed. We were all shaken, thinking that this could happen to “me” just as easily.

    Then, someone started to applaud. Quite quickly, the applause grew into a standing ovation, and Vanna was encouraged to keep going. Her second chance became a brilliant performance. I don’t remember her topic…but…the lesson for the audience was to support her effort and help her to move out of her head and into her heart. Start the applause.

    Invaluable!